The legend of Black Sam lives on.
The world’s richest pirate may have eluded capture in life, but efforts to bring him in are still underway – for science, if not justice.
Samuel ‘Black Sam’ Bellamy went down with his wrecked ship, the Whydah, along with over 140 of its crew, in a violent storm off the coast of Cape Cod in 1717. Fast-forward a few centuries, and Black Sam himself may now end up being the plunder in his own unlikely epilogue.
The wreck of the Whydah was discovered in 1984, with explorers subsequently turning up various artefacts of the galley, such as its bell and a small brass placard.
Of Black Sam, no sign was ever found – until researchers last year noticed a human bone jutting out from a fused mass of sand and other detritus attached to the wreck. Could it be?
This week, archaeologists at the Whydah Pirate Museum extracted the ancient femur from the 1,630 kilogram (3,600 pound) mass, and scientists from the University of New Haven will now attempt to source a DNA sample from the bones – in the hope it might be matched with DNA from a living descendant of one of Black Sam’s siblings.
Yep, it does sound a little like one of the occult-oriented storylines from Pirates of the Caribbean – in which pirate skeletons of yore have their true selves revealed under the grace of moonlight (except with modern-day genetic analysis instead).
But the team is totally serious, reasoning that because the bone was wedged in close proximity to what’s thought to have been Bellamy’s pistol – alongside other bones, plus coins, glass, and tools – there’s a good chance the femur could also belong to the infamous (though seemingly good-natured and chivalrous) pirate.